How to Care for a Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are some of the cutest and most friendly rodents. Originally from South America, they live within the grasslands and lower slopes of the Andes Mountains. They're best known as being an excellent first pet choice for children, though adults should still supervise. Here, we will cover how to care for a guinea pig.
These rodents have some specialized requirements to be met in order to have a happy and long life. So, before you head off to the pet store or humane society to adopt, we have provided you with some top tips to help you provide the best care for your new family member.
Housing Requirements for a Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs need enough room to roam and separate spaces to sleep, go to the bathroom, and eat and drink. Many of the cages sold are much too small to provide enough space for your guinea pig to live happily.
As a general guideline, one guinea pig needs a minimum space of 7.5 square feet cage. However, an area of 30 inches by 36 inches provides a much higher level of welfare for your pet. If you are planning on having more than one, then aim for 10.5 square feet for two and 13 square feet for three.
There are several advantages with providing a larger living environment, and these include:
- A healthier guinea pig because they will be able to exercise
- A cleaner cage because larger spaces become easier to clean, as they allow your guinea pigs to develop a bathroom area away from other living spaces
- A happier quality of life because there is enough room for everyone to have their own space
Where to Locate Your Guinea Pig in the House
Now that you have selected the right housing, the next step is considering where in your home they will live. So, here some things to think about.
Keep Away From High Temperatures
Guinea pigs like a temperature range of between 65F to 75F. Locate away from direct heat sources such as wood stoves and fireplaces. Did you know that guinea pigs cannot sweat if they become too warm? So that means that they are susceptible to heatstroke.
Guinea Pigs Like Activity and Attention
Guinea pigs love the attention from being near to family activities, and they also benefit from getting more attention when everyone can easily see and hear them. A living room or areas where the family spends time is a good choice. Just make sure they have somewhere to hide within the cage so that they can get away from it all if they need to. Although guinea pigs like being around people, they have sensitive hearing, so place their cage away from stereos and televisions.
What is Group Living?
Guinea pigs are sociable animals, and in the wild, they live in groups of between three and 10. In fact, it is so crucial to their wellbeing to be around other guinea pigs that in some countries, such as Switzerland, it is illegal to have one living by themselves.
A rabbit is sometimes suggested as a suitable companion, but there is a risk of them bullying and possibly causing harm to their smaller companion. The best company for your guinea pig is another of their own kind.
A neutered male, along with one or more females, is often found to be a good combination. However, many people find that groups of females or neutered brothers can live happily together.
What to Feed Your Guinea Pig
There are four key parts to your guinea pig’s daily diet. These include:
This is used both for bedding and is a vital part of their daily diet. Your guinea pig needs constant access to grass hay, so you will need to check supplies several times a day. This fibrous part of their diet helps to keep their digestive system moving and wears down their continually growing teeth.
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Guinea Pig Nuggets
Sometimes called pellets, this is a dried food that has been formulated with your guinea pig's nutritional needs in mind. While these are packed with nutrients, they are not a complete food, so fresh vegetables are also needed.
Lettuce, collard greens and peas are often real favorites. Then, you can also offer fruits such as pears, strawberries and apples a few times a week.
Your guinea pig always needs to have continuous access to fresh drinking water. You can provide this in a feeding bottle which is attached to the hutch or cage. The bottle will need cleaning and filling up with fresh water each day.
Handling a Guinea Pig
Handling a guinea pig requires great care to ensure that they feel comfortable and secure. They do have a delicate bone structure, so this means that a fall can cause them to suffer severe injuries.
The sooner you initiate physical contact with your guinea pig, the quicker they will come to look forward to being the center of attention. But you should be aware that being picked up is not a natural thing for a guinea pig; the first few times you try, they may be quite nervous.
We recommend that, to begin with, you just place your hand in the cage, a little distance from your pet, and let them come and investigate. After a few days, and with your guinea pig happily coming over to your hand, you can pick them up. So, place one hand under their chest and have your other hand supporting their bottom and then, holding them in both hands, bring them close to your chest.
The Advantages of Guinea Pigs as Pets
Guinea pigs have a life span of between six and eight years, which is much longer than most hamsters or gerbils. Also, they rarely become ill. They have a great immune system and rarely suffer from major health issues. Guinea pigs also build a relationship with their family and love being around people
The Disadvantages of Guinea Pigs as Pets
Space may be an issue. With their preference to live inside the home you may need to do some reorganizing of furniture to fit their cage into the room. They can also be destructive. Guinea pigs need to chew to wear down their teeth. This does mean that when they are out of their cage, they need constant supervision. If you do not, you may find that furniture legs and electrical cables get gnawed on!